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Written by: Frances Dellutri, Jr. High / Intermediate Level EIS Education Team and Lynne Zielinski, Manager of EIS Education
Topic: Art, Astronomy
Title of Lesson: Orbital Debris and Albedo - Middle School
Grade (Age) Level: Grades 5-8 (Ages 10-13)
Standards: CCCS: 6.8.3, 6.8.7: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RST/6-8/
NGSS: MS-ESS1-3; MS-ESS3-2,3; MS-ETS1-1,4:
When we look at the moon from Earth or the Earth from space, we are seeing reflected light, albedo. Earth is reflecting the sun's light energy and the moon is reflecting light energy from the sun and second hand sun reflection from Earth. Scientists have learned to use albedo in determining the size and shape of space objects that cannot be captured by a camera. The Air Force Phillips Laboratory in Maui, Hawaii uses albedo as one source to conduct measurements to characterize the orbital debris LEO environment. The U.S. Space Surveillance network primarily tracks deep space objects (those with orbital periods greater than 225 minutes) using optical sensors that detect reflected sunlight. The observed brightness of a space object depends on many factors besides its size, such as its orientation, its surface composition and the viewing geometry.
This experiment gives a friendly hands-on demonstration of determining and analyzing albedo and takes into account a space object in a mock revolving orientation.